Yonkers: Top debt, taxes among NY cities, report says

| The Journal News

ALBANY – Yonkers had the most debt and highest taxes among the five largest cities outside of New York City last year, while White Plains charged the most fines, a report released Wednesday said.

The “Benchmarking New York” report from the Empire Center compared taxes, spending and debt for municipalities across New York based on data from the state Comptroller’s Office.

Yonkers, the third largest city outside New York City, had the most debt at $2,819 per capita and collected the most taxes $1,508 per capita.

The expenses in Yonkers, which has grappled with budget problems associated with its school system, well outpaced other cities: Syracuse was second in debt at $1,908 per capita, and Albany was second in most taxes per capita at $1,160.

The report highlights how the city of Yonkers pays more for its schools than other cities in New York, said Christina Gilmartin, a spokeswoman for Yonkers Mike Spano.

The city has long fought for more state aid, and it’s had success in getting some more money, as well as higher sales taxes to fund its schools.

“Yonkers provides half its budget to our schools and pays more for our schools than the other big 3 cities outside New York City, combined,” Gilmartin said in a statement.

“This is proof that the state continues to discriminate against Yonkers with its school aid formula. Despite these challenges, Yonkers continues to increase its bond ratings, proving that Yonkers is making progress and is on the road to fiscal stability.”

The report aims to let the public compare spending and taxes in similarly sized local governments, said Tim Hoefer, the executive director of the fiscally conservative, Albany-based group

“Benchmarking is a powerful tool that allows New Yorkers to see how each of their local governments’ spending practices compare to others,” Hoefer said.

White Plains charged the most fines among cities, collecting $150 per resident, the report said.

Yonkers was a distant second in highest fines, which was categorized as the amount of revenue a municipality received from local fines and penalties — such as bail and DWIs.

The per capita fines in Yonkers was $92 last year and $49 in Mount Vernon, which ranked third among cities.

White Plains Thomas Roach surmised that the per capita rate in the city is skewed because it is a large commercial hub with eight parking garages, 24 parking lots and 13,400 municipal spaces.

“There is just going to be a lot more activity than general,” said Roach, adding the city doesn’t have any unique fines or penalites.

Among the state’s largest counties, Westchester had the largest per capita spending at $2,712 in 2015, while Scarsdale was the highest among large villages at $3,571 per capita.

Scarsdale also ranked first among large villages for taxes at $2,329 per capita.

But Scardale’s spending pales in comparison to some tony villages on Long Island.

The per capita taxes in Saltaire on Fire Island, which had a mere year-round population of 37 in 2013, was $61,281, and it was $11,625 in East Hampton.

© 2016 Gannett News Service